Thursday, August 27, 2015

Guest Post: Communicating with a Newsletter by Ms. Judy Naillon

Do you share newsletters in your studio? Read this guest post by the one and only ViolinJudy, Judy Naillon to learn why they're an important part of communicating in your studio!

As an independent music teacher you may feel like you do enough already, but it's really important to market yourself if you don't have a full studio or a waiting list. The best and easiest way to get new students is by being so awesome that all of your current students will go to their friends and family and tell them why they should take lessons from you.

We musicians tend to be creative and also a bit disorganized. That's why it's a great idea to give important information to your students in a monthly newsletter. We all have had that “Oops” moment when we remember the important thing to tell them or to hand them a printed reminder is the minute after the student leaves. 

 By setting aside some time at the end of the month to organize your thoughts and ideas for the next month you’ll turn yourself into a better and more organized teacher too. Parents will be happy to have information nicely laid out for them. Yes, some parents need and appreciate frequent reminders of the next recital, even though I give out all the dates in August.  (Now that I have my own child, I have sadly found out that I can be that parent with other activities!  I have lost the T-ball schedule more than once and wished it had been emailed to me!)

In the past we could rely on social media outlets like Facebook to reach our clients; however with the inconsistent way they show information it's important to have personal communication. 

If you are shy about letting parents know that you need more students, the newsletter is the perfect format to get the word out!  It's important to stay fresh in your client’s mind and remind them how amazing you are. Once you start sending a newsletter out it may be tempting to send out information  the day you have it, but I would suggest no more than once a week and no less  than once a month. You want the newsletter to feel special so that parents will want to open it! 

Some suggestions to make writing your newsletter a breeze:  
  • Have a section for important dates like group lessons and recitals and a student of the month section.  
  • Remind students  which practice contest is running and what “special week” was held last month (I do lots of quick bench games with matching songs and candy treats. For example last week was ice cream week at my studio!)
  • Include something a little more personal.  At the beginning of magazines there is often a special personal note from the editor. This is the vibe I’m going for.
  • Publish a few fantastic pictures of your students to remind them of what a fun and unique teacher you are and assure readership.  Everyone enjoys seeing a picture of their kid highlighted, so be sure to include everyone throughout the year! 
  •  After learning the hard way, I convert each newsletter into.pdf format, this way everyone can easily view the newsletter.
You can find generic newsletter templates in programs like Microsoft Word, or find free programs; however a better use of your time may be to purchase a newsletter template specific to the kind of teacher you are. This year I asked the wonderful Plucky Pianista Melody Payne to create some extra special piano teacher newsletter templates, as I was unsatisfied with the generic teacher newsletters I had been using (and it’s nice to get a new theme every year too!)  I’m so thrilled that she was happy to oblige and you can find her fantastic templates in the store here:

While it would be nice if everybody was in the 21st-century, there are clients who need printed newsletters. Consider how many hard copies you need. (We all know how expensive color ink is!)  I usually print at least one to hang on my bulletin board.  I send a text reminder to a few who don’t check email regularly to let them know that the newsletter email has been sent.

 If you have a website you can post your newsletter there too, which is a great way to let prospective new students see what you have to offer!  However if you live in a very competitive area, you may want to save this information for your private students! You can view my latest newsletter at my website here

I hope these tips help you become a more organized and effective teacher!  

About the Author: “Ms. Judy Naillon, or “ViolinJudy” is a dedicated Piano and Violin teacher, who over the past 20 years has given private lessons in Winfield and Derby, KS and now is located in Wichita, KS.  Her full time job is her private studio, playing with Wichita Symphony, managing and playing with her String Quartet and, managing her wonderful family. She received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Wichita State University, and has played Violin in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra for the past 12 years.  A MTNA member, she has been fortunate to attend many national conventions.  
“I love coming up with creative ideas to help my students be successful, including composing pieces for them, making up new games to make theory fun, planning awesome group lessons and scouring the internet for all things violin & piano... from worksheets to the latest iPad app.  I was hesitant at first, but I love seeing my students (young and old) delight in all that an iPad can offer!  I'm proud to be a certified JoyTunes iPad Piano teacher and able to gift my students with access to this amazing app!  There are so many new options that can really make practicing FUN! Join me; I'll help to get your students in a joyful learning spirit!”

Connect with Judy: Visit her website at 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Back to School Sale on TpT!

Today (8/4/15) is the last day to save up to 28% off all products by Melody Payne on Teachers Pay Teachers! Remember to use code BTS15 at checkout for the additional savings. 

Check out my newly updated products as well as the newly posted products and best sellers too! Check your wish list before checking out, add the promo code BTS15, cash in any TpT credits you may have, and happy shopping!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Post: "Tiny Ticklers, Teaching Very Young Students" by Doreen Hall

Hello, readers! Today I'd like to welcome our newest guest, Doreen Hall, to the blog. Doreen is going to share some ideas for teaching very young students. I know we can all use more ideas! Thank you for joining us today, Doreen, and welcome!

They are not like my other students, with these kids I have to be ready…for anything. They hide behind doors, and under pianos. They jump around, run around, and even dance around. They look in my purse, ask me how old I am, and how many kids I have. They call me out on everything from a gray hair to a wrinkled sweater. They don’t stay on the bench for very long, they love to flip pages, and draw smiley faces on the music. And let’s not forget all of those “Whys”.
So who are these people? They are my preschool students of course, and I love teaching them! They jump with excitement, and dance with enthusiasm. They are interested in the music, and curious about everything (like when was the last time I dusted my piano). They are unabashedly honest, free spirited and fearless. In other words, they are natural musicians.
I love teaching these little angels but it is not necessarily an easy task. It takes a whole lot of patience, love and the understanding that very young children learn differently than their older counterparts. Little hands and eyes are not ready for everything the pianist needs to learn, but little ears and hearts are like open vessels ready for the music to be poured in.
While in my experience most three and four-year-olds are not ready for traditional piano instruction there are many skills preschoolers are ready to learn. For example:
  • Lesson etiquette; greeting the teacher, taking care of materials, etc.
  • Concentration. 
  • Proper posture (I recommend a foot bench and adjustable seat).
  • Finger numbers (following fingering is a challenge for most preschoolers).
  • The music alphabet (forward and backward).
  • The names of the keys.
  • Treble and Bass clef.
  • How to identify high, medium and low notes, by sound and on the keyboard.
  • The names of basic note values.
  • Stories of Great Composers.
  • How to play along with the teacher duet style and keep a steady beat.
  • How to sing simple melodies.
  • Solfege syllables.
  • How to count and clap basic rhythm.
  • The definition of music.
  • The concept of organized sound.
  • The concept of timbre.
  • Dynamics; loud vs soft sounds.
  • Tempo; fast, medium and slow music.
  • To listen to great music. (You can guide families on this).
  • How to participate in a recital (most little kids are not nervous).
  • Basic Improvisation.
I believe a child can start learning to play the piano as soon as he/she is willing to receive instruction. Granted you may have to take a lot of breaks at the beginning, and it helps to have a parent around to guide the practice at home. The main thing is to make lessons fun and be sure that all of the grown-ups involved in the child’s piano education have realistic expectations of the importance of practicing (Beginning with about 5 minutes a day).

I always keep the music in front of my preschool students to make them aware of the notation. I don't mind the really little ones getting help from a parent, or even following some fingerings and writing in note names if it gets them playing. When I feel the student is ready, I introduce music reading. For most of my student’s this coincides with learning to read words.

When working with preschool students I really like to vary the activities and keep the lesson moving along. I let the kids stand up and even walk around as needed. Many of the above activities can be “off the bench”. For example, the children can stand while singing or walk up and down the keyboard while naming the keys.  

Teaching preschoolers is always an adventure. Each little one is unique. Some are boisterous, some are quiet, and some run smiling into the studio, while others hang steadfastly to Dad’s leg. Each one however, is able learn about music. As long as a child’s first experience with piano study is a positive one, I believe it is a great advantage for children to begin piano study as early in life as possible.

About the Author: Doreen Hall teaches Piano in West Palm Beach Florida. She holds a teaching certificate in Music K through 12 and Early Childhood Education. She has over 30 years of experience teaching students of all ages and abilities. She earned a degree in Music Theory and Composition from SUNY Fredonia. She has Post Graduate credit from Adelphi University in New York, and she has trained with the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Doreen serves as the pianist at her church and works regularly as an accompanist in the West Palm Beach area. She is an avid composer and arranger, and self publishes her music. She has written her own piano method, and publishes the books online in PDF format at Paloma Piano LLC.
Doreen lives in Sunny Florida with her husband Stewart. She has 5 sons and 2 grandchildren. Most of her interests music related and include Ethnomusicology, Singing, and playing the Violin.

Connect with Doreen at her website:
Connect with Doreen on Facebook:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Music Alphabet Monsters - Free Download

As your new students learn and review the letters of the music alphabet, they will love getting help from these adorable monsters! These cards are appropriate for a single student, small group, group class, music classroom, music camp, or even the non-music setting. Download includes 4 different sets of music alphabet cards (a set of green monsters, a set of yellow monsters, a set of blue monsters, and a set of pink monsters), and a black/white line art set, plus 4 pages of game ideas and photos. Read more below, and you can find the download link at the bottom of this post. Hope your kiddos enjoy! :)

Download these free sets of music alphabet cards and game instructions here.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope your kiddos enjoy! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Guest Post: "Why Music? Because Music Works." by Darcy Hill

Today's guest post is written by Darcy Hill of One Arts Infusion Collaborative. Many thanks to Darcy for submitting this article! 

They were from the far east side of town, and we were from the far west.  Our lives, our experiences, and our schedules were worlds apart despite the few miles that separated us. It’s not that we couldn’t have been friends; it’s just that our paths would never have crossed. That is, until “The Project,” that cast us all on the same team, transitioned from dream to enactment. 

Two very different fifth grade worlds were about to collide and in that collision, be called upon to create and then perform a rap depicting the story of our city, our shared story.  It was to be a part of a much larger original musical work entitled, “Hometown History,” and was dreamed and written to be shared by children to an audience of all neighbors from all neighborhoods of our hometown.  It was to serve as a big affirming hug to a city besieged by violence, unemployment, and fear.  It was to be just one step toward building a bridge of hope and trust between neighbors.  

The first meeting of the fifth graders  occurred at the west side school and although the air was filled with a certain amount of  tentativeness,  a pinch of suspicion, and a good dollop of curiosity, the lengthy laundry list of tasks to be accomplished while together served to quickly  focus us all  beyond our piddily concerns and doubts. We attended to the business of getting the job done and that demanded immediate cooperative effort; all hands on deck, so to speak. We worked exceedingly hard, we learned, shared, collaborated, laughed, perfected, discussed, fell short, tried again, cheered each other on, applauded ourselves, supported, encouraged, questioned, explained, tried harder, kept practicing, saw progress, high-fived,  and, after a couple of hours, enjoyed a pizza lunch together with these precious new friends.  The next few weeks were committed to practicing on our own at our respective schools.  

The second meeting occurred at the east side school, and the air was filled with excitement, anticipation and warmth as we reconvened our awesome fifth grade team.  The local news media showed up to capture the joy of this creative team of fifth grade bridge builders as they zealously rehearsed their proud rap, and sang, danced, played, and laughed as all children should and do from every side of town in every town around the globe. 

Music brought us together. Music brought balm to a hometown afflicted with fear and distrust. Music brought laughter, peace, joy and friendship. Music built a bridge of hope and possibility. Music always does.  Music levels the playing field and invites each one to play. Music is a universal language that transcends circumstances and disengages exclusivity.  Music links us, binds us, welcomes us, and calls us into a shared joy.  

Why music? Because it heals our hearts and makes us better.


About Darcy Hill: I am a teacher. Over the past 30 years, I have been committed to reaching the hearts of the diverse students I teach by writing curricula immersed in original song, drama, and creative movement to bring subject matter to life, to kindle imaginations, and to instill a love for learning. I believe that arts integration holds a key to increased student engagement in the learning process. I believe that the arts are a powerful tool to build collaborative bridges of hope and joy between neighbors and organizations within communities, and I am deeply committed to local efforts of this sort. I have written numerous musicals for my students over the years. One of the most recent original pieces was “Forever Honest Abe”(about Abraham Lincoln) which we performed  May 2014 in Springfield, IL including a recitation of the Gettysburg Address delivered on the floor of the Illinois State Senate. The previous year we performed the original “On Being Wright” (about Frank Lloyd Wright) at Wright-designed Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin. We performed in our hometown of Rockford, IL as well to heighten awareness of the genius of Wright in preparation for the local opening of the Laurent House, Wright’s only handicap accessible house. Just prior to that, we performed “Hometown History,” a musical I wrote about our city. We engaged the support and involvement of more than 25 local organizations as a part of this effort and earned a “Mayor’s Arts Award” for collaborative project of the year. We are presently up to our ears in this summer’s project is a children’s operetta entitled, “Araminta: The Life of Harriet Tubman,” which we will teach to 100 under-served and special needs students and then perform locally as well as in Wisconsin at an Underground Railroad Museum. 

Music teaches. Music heals. Music helps build bridges between neighbors. Time and time again over more than 30 years I have witnessed the power and preciousness of music to reach into situations and bring hope. 

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, am a UW-Madison grad, and a 30 year teacher in Illinois.  I have been married 27 years to a very patient man, have 3 remarkable sons, 2 rambunctious Labs, a most inspiring extended family, and a lifelong zeal for playing the piano and writing music.

Although exceedingly late in my career, I just completed a Master's Degree in 2013 in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University Portland, thereby achieving a bucket list dream. 

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